Hello? Is this thing on?


I had not intended in abandoning this little blog for almost a year.

But every time I thought of maybe posting something trivial, I couldn’t bear to eliminate that sweet little face of my little Shamrock from the top of the blog!

Still, I’m not sure if I have any remaining followers out there… although this blog truly was just for me and I’m not sure how/why/which way it evolved or what I’d like it to be now.

But I did think about doing is a little catch-up. Inspired loosely by the 12 Days of Christmas, maybe I’ll post about what I’ve done each month for the year. Or not. We’ll see how motivated I get.

To be quite honest, the biggest reason I haven’t come back here is that it took too much effort. My responsibilities at work have increased and at the end of the day, the last thing I wanted to do was log back on a computer.

But maybe, just maybe… I will.

I will tell you that in the last year, I have:

  • Read 98 books so far (many of them audiobooks)
  • Traveled to Australia, Virginia, Michigan, Wisconsin & Kansas City
  • Dog-sat multiple dogs at a time
  • Paid off my car
  • Attended 3 Packer games (all wins!)

Not all that exciting, but that’s a year in the life… How do you measure a year? 🙂

If I do come back to the blog more regularly, what do you miss or want to see.

Happy Holidays!


Happy New Year!


My poor little abandoned blog… I haven’t forgotten about you! We didn’t deck the halls or get holiday cards out this year, but Shamrock said he still wanted to wish you all “Peas” on Earth. He got a new set of Peas in a Pod for Christmas. He loves to take the peas out of the pod and nibble on them.

Cheers to a Happy New Year!


Friday 5 – What I’ve Been Reading (Graphic Novels?!)


This is a strange grouping of books that have recently come into my life. What’s even stranger? I started reading my first ever graphic novel the day that Modern Mrs. Darcy suggested titles to introduce her readers to the genre!


13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do
by Amy Morin (nonfiction, audiobook) – worth a read/listen

As usual, I’m not sure how this book came into my life. It may have been a suggestion from my library’s Hoopla app?

Morin is a licensed therapist who, through her sessions with clients and her own personal struggles, has uncovered what traits and habits help people through grief and the roughest patches in their lives. The answers aren’t entirely surprising, but reinforcing. It’s a book I might have wanted to read rather than listen to in order to absorb more of the detail or go back to parts that might apply for me.

Some Goodreads’ reviewers berated this author for making the title, assuming that those who want this information are mentally weak. However, I didn’t get that impression. I felt like she was giving tools to build mental strength just like one would give one who wants to build physical strength. Okay, maybe it doesn’t read that way in the negative. Maybe the affirmative would be better. However, the book does focus on ingrained habits that may need changing.

I really do need to keep a little notebook with quotes or nuggets I pick up. It’s often after the fact that they’ve lost me… and I’m failing to come up with one here.


Your Illustrated Guide to Becoming One with the Universe
by Yumi Sakugawa 
(nonfiction, graphic novel) – MUST READ

A graphic novel is a novel written in a comic-strip style form. Is this a graphic novel? I don’t know. It has illustrations and is nonfiction, so it’s not really a novel; but I loved it. Some people reviewing this book didn’t feel like it was anything “new”, but it was a feel good book to me and helped me relax one night. Now it’s on my bedside table.


The Initiates
by Étienne Davodeau, Joe Johnson (translator) (graphic novel)worth a read

I’m not really into comic strips or comic books, so the graphic novel never really interested me. However, I discovered this book on Modern Mrs. Darcy’s suggested reading list to introduce others to the graphic novel genre. It was the perfect introduction for me: It takes place in France and is about a wine maker and a comic artist who agree to learn about each other’s trades for a year. I definitely learned a thing or two and it was fun. The version I read was a downloadable from my library’s website and I was able to read it on my computer. That’s something I’ve never done before!


Love Real Food
by Kathryne Taylor (cookbook) – worth a read

Yes, I’m still reading cookbooks from time to time. This one did NOT disappoint! It’s on my wish list. I now follow the author’s blog Cookie + Kate. I’m not a vegetarian, but it is a vegetarian cookbook. It offers such nourishing recipes with real foods and I marked dozens. That’s when I knew it belongs on my shelf! I didn’t get a chance to test-run any before I returned it to the library. By the way, Cookie is a-dog-able! (There are lots of fun photos of her in the book!)


Dinner with Edward
by Isabel Vincent (nonfiction, audiobook) – worth a listen

If you love stories about food and how they’ve brought people together and fostered relationships, this one is for you! I certainly do. I’m sure this one was recommended to me by my library’s audiobook Hoopla app and I enjoyed it thoroughly. It was easy to wile away the hours washing dishes and cleaning listening to this one.


Have you read a graphic novel? 


Friday 5 – Muddling Through…


Haven’t been in the mood to sit and read much lately… but here are a few books I’ve been muddling through… (I’ve been listening to audio continually, though!)


The Art of Living
by Thich Nhat Hanh (nonfiction) – skip

This is can be a spiritually-opening book. However, nothing felt mind-blowing to me. Perhaps I didn’t pick it up at the right time. It’s not a long book, but it took me an awfully long time to finish. Thich Nhat Hanh’s work as a Buddhist Monk is highly respectable and something that should be celebrated. This book just wasn’t for me, right now.


Maybe in Another Life
by Taylor Jenkins Reid 
(fiction) – an easy read 

I know I’m describing this as an easy read, which it is… but the subject matter isn’t exactly easy or “fun”. What is fun is that the chapters alternate based on whether or not something happened. Confused? Think Sliding Doors. If you’ve seen and liked the concept of that movie, I think you’ll like this book. Hats off to my friend Julia who returned this library book to me when I accidentally left it in our hotel room!


On Turpentine Lane
by Elinor Lipman (fiction, audiobook) – worth a listen

I downloaded this one from my library after I saw it in a list of 6 Recent Audiobooks I Thoroughly Enjoyed on the Modern Mrs. Darcy blog. Nothing too earth-shattering here, but it did pass the time nicely while I was cleaning! I thoroughly enjoyed it as well.


Flight Behavior
by Barbara Kingsolver (fiction, audiobook) – MUST READ

I knew absolutely nothing about this book before I listened to it. I suspect I discovered it on this list of Engaging Audiobooks Read by their Authors from Modern Mrs. Darcy. After my first commute listening to this book, I told my husband that the new book I was listening to is about adultery. But boy was I wrong! Though “flight behavior” can refer to more than one theme in this book. The author’s voice was a little too timid for my tastes at first; but then I became completely engaged and it just worked, especially for the voice of the main character.

There is so much explored in this book, that I was thinking about it long after finishing it. I haven’t read any other of Kingsolver’s books, although I know she is wildly popular. I see why and I’m looking forward to reading another. Many of her books are long, but I suspect that they are worth it. Just like this book.


Smitten Kitchen Everyday: Triumphant and Unfussy New Favorites
by Deb Perelman (cookbook) – worth a flip

To be fair, I did not read the first Smitten Kitchen cookbook. I do follow Perelman’s blog, though.

Her new book aims to offer recipes for food you’d want to eat, but that you’d actually make, too. (Hence the unfussy.) I loved reading this cookbook as a novel.  There are lots of long descriptions and introductions to each recipe.

But in the end, I flagged less than a half a dozen recipes that looked good and unfussy enough for me. You might be surprised that one of those flagged was the Carrot Salad with Tahini, Crisped Chickpeas and Salted Pistachios, but I recently tried a Parisian Carrot Bowl recipe that blew my mind. I probably never would have considered this one otherwise!

I’m still on the search for that perfect, easy (unfussy) make-at-home tomato soup and Perelman’s canned tomato version, makes it possible any time of year: Roasted Tomato Soup with Broiled Cheddar. I love that it’s a riff on both afrench onion soup and a grilled cheese!

Since I love bowls, the Romesco, Chickpea and Smashed Egg Bowl sounded like a comforting one. Besides, it’s about time I learn how to make a good romesco sauce.

And lastly, I was drawn to the Tomato and Gigante Bean Bake (aka pizza beans) because I feel like I’ve seen it again and again on someone’s blog. Perhaps hers?! It seems to get rave reviews and I’m thinking I need to add this to a game day repertoire.

But have I made any of these items as of late? Nope. Though the snow started to fall in MN this week, so it’s high time for some comfort food.


Which of those four recipes would you make?



Friday 5 – More Audiobooks! (Plus cookbooks to skip)


Still on an audiobook kick… but I think I’m out of my cookbook-reading phase. At least for now…


Eat Like a Gilmore
by Kristi Carlson (cookbook) – Skip

I am a huge fan of Gilmore Girls, so this cookbook intrigued me. I was curious what a cookbook for the Gilmore Girls could be like since Lorelai used her oven as storage and they seem to subsist on coffee, pop tarts, burgers with fries and all things candy. But after reading the intro, loved the creativity of tying the recipes to certain dishes eaten on specific episodes of the show! Alas, none of the recipes really called me to action to create myself, so as a cookbook, I’d skip it.


Happily Homemade
by Rachel Schultz 
(cookbook) – Skip

I believe I picked up this cookbook through Thrift Books (referral link) and after reading it, immediately put it up for grabs on PaperbackSwap (referral link). I can’t tell you much about it because it wasn’t memorable. I’m sure the recipes were fine, but maybe I’m just need a break from reading cookbooks?


Born A Crime
by Trevor Noah (nonfiction, audiobook) – MUST LISTEN

If I made of list of best audiobooks I’ve ever listened to, this would be on it. To be honest, after I started listening to it, it was my husband was the one who told me Noah took place of Jon Stewart on The Daily Show. I had read that Noah was a comedian, so I guess I was expecting a comedic book/story. This is not. Well, not really. It’s his memoir of life growing up in South Africa – and it is a very interesting glimpse. I feel quite ignorant in my knowledge of Apartheid and the world afterward. I absolutely love Noah’s storytelling and hearing about what life was like for him.

Like the books The Girl with Seven Names and Love, Loss and What We Ate, I am always fascinated learning what it’s like to grow up in other parts of the world.


The Goldfinch
by Donna Tartt (fiction, audiobook) – MUST LISTEN

This book seems to have such divided camps! You either love it or hate it, perhaps because it is such a long book. I chose it because it was highly recommended on audio and is 32 hours and 30 minutes long. Normally, I wouldn’t be able to finish such a book with a 3-day-per-week commute without some hefty library fines. But our 22-hr RT road trip to Michigan twice per year would do it! We finished a little over half the book during the first trip and then marked where we left off and returned it to the library. I reserved it again for our September trip and we were so looking forward to it.

I would agree that the book is slow in some parts, but I did love the narration. Boris was my favorite character! I am not sure if I would have felt that way if I would have read the book over listening to it. The movie adaptation is to be released in 2019 and my husband and I already have a date to see it.


Braving the Wilderness
by Brené Brown (nonfiction, audiobook) – worth a listen

This book is so eye-opening in this day in age of political polarization and an we vs. them culture. In some parts, the author spent a lot of time explaining her research. I understand that this is the nature of the beast when writing a book on such a topic and establishing your expertise on what you are writing, but sometimes I just wanted to skip over that stuff.

There were so many takeaways about standing on your own and not having to pick sides because real life is more complicated than that. For instance, yes you can support police and first responders, but also expect to hold them accountable. If I had the book, I know I would have highlighted passages. In fact, I decided to listen to it twice, the second time when we needed something to listen to our last leg of our Michigan trip after we finished The Goldfinch. 

My husband isn’t in the habit in listening to reading these kinds of books, so he wasn’t a fan at first. But when she got into the topics of political polarization and the dangers of dehumanization, I found him nodding in agreement. I remember her saying, “It’s hard to hate someone up close.”

My advice: this is a book worth reading/listening to, but please be patient in the beginning if you have a hard time muddling through the research aspect.


What’s the best audiobook you’ve listened to lately?
(Apparently, that’s how I’ve been getting my reading in as of late!)


Friday 5 – “Reading” Nonfiction (almost all audio!)


Have I really had no time to read a proper book lately?! Yes, it’s true, much of the books I read have been audio. But audio counts as “reading”, you know. 🙂


My Southern Journey
by Rick Bragg (nonfiction) – must LISTEN

I downloaded this on audio from the library per the recommendation of Modern Mrs. Darcy. It’s a collection of articles written by Rick Bragg, read by the author. His voice is like butter. It just sounds like the south and you want to eat it up. This was a perfect way to pass the time doing housework. It took me away to all the places I’ve been to the south and all the places and times I’ve never been, too. Loved it.


Love is All You Need:
The Revolutionary Bond-Based Approach to Educating Your Dog

by Jennifer Arnold 
(nonfiction) – must read

(The one non-audiobook of this list!) I adored both of Arnold’s books In a Dog’s Heart and Through a Dog’s Eyes, but this one was a much different. Arnold has challenged her thinking and the way her organization trains service dogs. What if we taught our dogs how to make their own choices, not just how to react on command? Her theories (and the research she sites to back it up) are revolutionary. And while she gives tips and strategies on how to accomplish this, I’d love to see it in more of a how-to form, not just text as part of a book like this.

This is very new thinking (or at least not the most popular yet) and will take some time to get some backing, but I really wish there were training facilities and more exposure to this approach!


I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being A Woman
by Nora Ephron (nonfiction, audio) – worth a listen

I chose this as a potential audiobook to listen to with my mom when I drove her back from Green Bay to the Twin Cities, but decided against it after I listened to the first couple of tracks. Instead, I listened to it on my own on my trip to Green Bay for a family reunion.

To be honest, I thought it was going to be too much about aging, but that is really only the beginning of the book. Back in the 90s I loved all of the Nora Ephron rom-coms (which then I just called Meg Ryan movies); so it was quite interesting to hear the literal voice and life stories of the woman behind those works. I especially liked the chapter on her own personal love story: with her New York Apartment. I loved hearing about her passion for the Apthorp building and am curious now to visit the neighborhood one day.


The Princess Diarist
by Carrie Fisher (nonfiction, audio) – worth a read

This is the audiobook I ultimately chose to listen to with my mom on our drive back to MN from Green Bay. I haven’t read any of Fischer’s works before, but I I have heard that she is quite the writer and a comedic one at that.

I am not a Star Wars fan, but my dad was into the original trilogy when it was released when I was young, so I do recognize a lot of from the original works. This book is her behind-the-scenes experience in the making of the movie and her life leading up to her casting. She also reveals some of the details of her affair with Harrison Ford which she wanted to be made public in her own words long after anyone could be scandalized by such news.

While she expresses her remembered experiences with such sass and wit, what I found truly compelling is the sharing of her journals she kept during that time. We didn’t finish the audiobook before we got to MN, so all throughout the week of my mom’s visit, we listened to it whenever we were in the car. My husband didn’t really like listening to Fisher’s voice, commenting on her lisp. But she had another narrator read her journals (perhaps to separate the younger Carrie from her current self).

These journal entries from a 19-20ish Carrie were raw and filled with emotion – poetic and indicative that she truly did have a talent for writing and would for many years to come. The voice of The Princess Diarist as a whole is very different from those journals; but I’m still curious of Fishers other works.


Love, Loss & What We Ate
by Padma Lakshmi (non-fiction, audio) – worth a listen

Truth be told, this book sat on my nightstand and I renewed it three times before I started reading it and it needed to be returned to the library. Then I realized I could download it on my phone with my library’s audiobook app and decided to that. I knew I’d like listening to her voice telling her own story. She has a lot to share. If you love Top Chef or cooking in general, you’ll love this book. If you are a woman, I think you’ll love this book. If you’ve ever struggled with fitting in, believing in yourself or doubting true love, I think you’ll love this book.

Yes, this book filled my hours walking and cleaning and I found it insightful, heart-wrenching and fun all at the same time.


If you read nonfiction, how do you decide on what to read and do you prefer to read or listen?


Friday 5 – Different Types of Books I’ve Been Reading!


I’ve got an interesting mix of books for you today! One about beauty, a fictional story set in early 20th century Moscow, fictional post WWII letters and the island of Guernsey, poetry for depressives and a cookbook using ingredients from Trader Joe’s.

I love how such a strange mix of books made it into my life at precisely the same time!


The French Beauty Solution
by Mathilde Thomas (nonfiction) – worth a read

Thomas is the co-founder of the French cult beauty product company CaudalĂ­e. You can expect that she’ll mention her company’s products in the book, but she mentions those of other brands as well. And while I probably won’t be trying her grape-cleanse anytime soon, I did learn a few things like the best and worst ingredients that go into beauty products. And also that most beauty treatments (except for mani-pedis) are much less expensive in France. I’ve never really done a spa weekend, but I think France would be just the place to do it!

Another tip I learned to keep skin from losing its moisture: After showing, apply coconut oil to your skin. Then blot (instead of drying) with a towel to seal in moisture.


A Gentleman from Moscow
by Amor Towles 
(fiction) – worth a read

Even though I adored Towles’ Rules of Civility, the sheer size of this book daunted me. I had it in my hands once and when it took me a week before I opened it, I realized there were hundreds of people on the waiting list, so I best just return it. I finally checked it out again and it kept me glued to my anti-gravity lounge chair on our deck on many summer afternoons. I was a bit confused by the ending; but as I found out, not in ways that other people were when I did a search online. I understood who the woman was in the final scene, but I guess I had too many questions about what happened next and why. While there was a conclusion, it wasn’t wrapped up neatly with a little bow. But maybe that was what Towles was looking for… he got us talking.


The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
by Mary Ann Shaffer (fiction, audiobook) – MUST READ/LISTEN

Just like the book The Help, I am behind the times with this work of art! Also published in 2009, many readers of the blog Modern Mrs. Darcy commented that they had trouble keeping all of the characters straight so they thought the audiobook was much better to do so.

And much like The Help, I don’t know how or what could make this book any more perfect than what it is!

It’s written (almost) entirely of letters to and from the protagonist Juliet, but still forms a complete and beautiful story situated just after WWII in London and on the island of Guernsey. While I was reading it, the movie adaptation was released on Netflix!

I watched it almost immediately after finishing the book because I had no idea how they could adapt these letters onto the screen. Truth be told, many of the details were changed… but they worked for their purposes without detracting too much from the heart of the book. (Plus you’ll see a few fave actors from Downton Abbey!) I still highly recommend reading the book or listening to it on audio.


Depression and Other Magic Tricks
by Sabrina Benaim (poetry) – worth a read

I don’t normally read poetry. It’s probably because it takes so much to understand and decipher it. I’m just not that good at it. Still, I can appreciate this little book of poems for what it is. Some of it is way over my head and sometimes it is a little much — like “Get over him already!” when reading about break-ups and heartache. But in the same vein, I know the power in releasing the emotion in the moment.

There is creativity in the style of poems as well, styles that may be well-known to the poetic world, but which were new to me, including:

  • Erasures – taking a song and then blacking out all the lines accept the few words that you want to form a poem with in the order they appear in the song
  • Taking a poem from earlier in the book and adding lines within it to create an entirely different poem with an entirely different meaning and feeling
  • Speaking about herself in the third person

While Benaim’s writing is beautifully thick and syrupy with lyrical meaning, much was over my head. Still, there were some great nuggets and lines from certain poems that I really enjoyed. For example:

We cannot control what we remember, but we can control how we remember. (~ How to Fold a Memory)

My favorite poems from this book:

  • explaining my depression to my mother: a conversation
  • seven small ways in which i loved myself this week
  • on releasing light
  • another plain truth
  • magic trick 004
  • follow-up: a prayer / a spell


The Eat Your Way Healthy at Trader Joe’s Cookbook
by Bonnie Matthews (cookbook) – worth a flip

I love Trader Joe’s, but it isn’t quite convenient enough to get there that often. I loved that the author was able to change her lifestyle by eating healthy all by using and adapting specific ingredients she shopped for at Trader Joe’s. While I loved her story, I found myself just flipping through this book more overwhelmed than inspired. I think there are some great recipes suggested here; they just didn’t arrive in the right season in my life.


What kind of books are you reading right now?
Do you read different kinds of books at different times during the year?